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The Dream Protects the Dreamer and: The Alias Maker
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The Dream Protects the Dreamer

The dream protects the dreamer
and, in turn, the dreamer protects
the dream. They keep each other
safe. The dream wets a rag
and wipes caked blood
from the dreamer's ear.
The dreamer stitches up a gash
on the dream's thigh with thread
he unwound from an old baseball.
They both thought it would be
different than this. From their camp
in the hills, they overlook the city,
which is quiet. No neighborhoods
on fire. No city blocks reduced
to rubble. The dream limps
to its rifle and tells the dreamer
that they need to go higher,
find more cover. Somewhere they can't
see the city. Somewhere they won't
be found. The dreamer nods
and stirs dirt into the fire's embers
with the toe of his boot. He's thinking
about how they sleep together each night
in their sleeping bag. How they strip
down to nothing and hold each other
to share the heat. They never talk
about it. Some nights he holds the dream
and others the dream holds him.
The dream cups its hand over the dreamer's heart,
and the dreamer hears the faint concert
of his heartbeat within his body.
They hike farther up into the hills,
into fog so thick they can almost part
it like drapery. They can't see each other.
But each hears the other's breathing.
The dreamer wonders if the dream
is reaching out for his hand
and if he should reach out too.
After an hour, he begins to forget
the dream's face. And the dream begins
to forget his. When the fog lifts,
the dream is alone. It listens
for the dreamer's footsteps,
but hears nothing. It shouts for him,
again and again, though it knows
it shouldn't, but gets no response.
So the dream slumps down
onto the leaf-softened hillside
and settles the rifle across its lap.
It remembers the dreamer
was carrying the sleeping bag.
It's near evening, and getting colder.
The dream plants the rifle butt
into the ground and hoists itself up again.
It wants to make the summit by nightfall.
The dreamer could be waiting.

The Alias Maker

1.

In this dim cubicle, I work each day
on my lonely enterprise. One sad cog:
a crafter of ciphers, letter writer
in invisible ink, dead-drop artist,

too homely for a honeypot. But look:
I have made a man from nothing at all!
Hours in the forgery room I spent
painting stamps on his ex nihilo passport,

as if illuminating the Gospels.
He is a man, no doubt, papered enough
to run for office. But this man will not
be an alias for me. I know no

wild adventures, no trysts in Gay Paree.
I make the men for other men to be.

2.

I make the men for other men to be:
send them off to school, choose the date they lose
their virginity. I give their parents
respectable professions or brand them

criminals or liars or cheats. One needs
a watchmaker's touch to set the details
of a man's history. True, it's an art:
the ratio of tragedy to joy,

nuances like broken bones and the names
of childhood crushes. I spend all morning
debating between Chloe and Sarah
for a high school girlfriend. I have more work

than ten men could do. My skills are esteemed.
Every day for lunch I eat ham and cheese.

3.

Every day for lunch I eat ham and cheese
in the cafeteria with Amy;
she works in the cubicle next to mine.
To build a cover takes a steady hand,

and hers is as sure as a safecracker's.
She's a Da Vinci with a dossier.
Last fall, she made a new identity
for an agent in Mauritania

while drafting a staff memorandum on
office refrigerator etiquette.
What acumen! I'm powerfully in love
with her: entranced divinely, gothically.

One day I could ask her out for coffee,
though I doubt she'd have a dull man like me.

4.

Though I doubt she'd have a dull man like me,
these lives on my...



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